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Preview: The Golden State Warriors fly to Atlanta to tether the Hawks

The Golden State Warriors already faced a #1 seed from the East this season, when they ripped apart the Toronto Raptors at the Oracle on January 2nd. Now they face the soaring Atlanta Hawks.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks' 19-game winning streak is history, so unfortunately the Warriors can't look forward to ending it themselves. But killing streaks is much more of an incentive for teams that have been flailing anyways, and shouldn't provide much more motivation for a playoff-bound powerhouse such as the Warriors.

Any time the Warriors have faced tougher competition this season, we've seen playoff caliber energy, especially right out of the gates. Even if it's a cliché, the Warriors and fans alike know that these marquee matchups are great playoff barometers. The usual suspects will certainly be scrutinized, including turnovers, late-game execution, shot selection if we're down, and protecting the rim sans Andrew Bogut.

On that playoff note: after an embarrassing few months for Vegas, where the bookkeepers had the Cleveland Cavaliers as a favorite to win it all this spring, the Warriors are getting their due respect as the new favorite (+350). Sure, nothing is given in this league, you have to earn it, yada yada, but it's nice to see. It hasn't fully set in yet that we're likely the best team in the league, has it?

Enough of this feel-good blather, lets look at some specifics:

The Kyle Korver situation:

Praised for his ability to simplify the Hawks' scoring to 4-on-4, Korver's outside shooting has been so lethal (53.2%) that his defenders try not to leave his side, even in extreme (and silly) cases leaving the key open for an easy bucket. Korver leads the NBA in 3-point percentage by an astounding 7.3% (Klay is 4th on that list at 44.6%, Curry 20th at 40.4%). Since Korver's strength lies more in knocking down open looks, and not necessarily getting open, maybe Kerr doesn't use one of his best perimeter defenders on him? Harrison Barnes could make a lot of sense.

The Sapper (Paul Millsap):

He's developed into a very effective stretch 4, since he can now shoot from behind the 3-point line (36.4%). However, Draymond Green is probably the best defensive 4 in the game. Seriously, throw some names out there - it's not close. I was concerned heading in to the Mavericks matchup earlier this week that Dirk Nowitzki could be a bit tall for Draymond, but, no, not at all (held to 4/15 from the field!). Probably the biggest concern here is that Millsap hangs out by the 3-point line and as a result, Draymond can't help as much on the block and at the rim.

The Junkyard Dog (DeMarre Carroll):

With a very low usage rate (14.4), Carroll's contributions are mostly left off the stat sheet, with the exceptions being his sticky hands (1.2 steals per game), and ability to stretch the floor (like pretty much the rest of their roster). Kind of like the Hawks' Draymond Green, no? He's not really someone who's going to be emphasized on scouting reports, but it may not be a coincidence that their streak ended when he came off the bench.

Al Horford:

Atlanta made a good run in the playoffs last year without their starting Center, but he's a vital cog in their thriving system this year. He has some valuable talents for a big guy, including a decent free throw percentage (75%) and decent passing (3.3 assists per game). One of the few players on their squad that doesn't shoot too many 3-pointers, Horford still averages 0.2 made per game.

Jeff Teague:

Sorry, but it's hard to view opposing teams' backcourts as legitimate threats next to the Splash Brothers. Yes, Teague is good at getting to the rim and drawing fouls (4.1/4.7 FTs per game), which does complement the rest of the team's 3pt shooting nicely, but here's hoping that one of the best rim protectors in the game (our very own Bogut), steps up to the plate, and out of the recent slump he's been in. He's fouled way too much as of late, and the Warriors could really use him on the floor tonight.

Bench mob vs. Bench mob:

With the unselfish David Lee and Andre Iguodala embracing their bench roles this season, we have one of the most experienced and deepest benches around. Throw in Marreese Speights and Shaun Livingston and you have 4 players who could easily start on many teams around the league. For the Hawks? Some Dubs fans will recognize just one name, a Mr. Kent Bazemore.

Steve Kerr vs Mike Budenholzer:

I don't watch much of the Hawks - certainly not enough to comment on the quality of coaching. But I'm going to assume that any coach, even one that leads a team to a #1 seed in the East, will pale in comparison to the glory of Steve Kerr. I have a sneaking suspicion that our front office landed a Popovich-grade coach, but only time will tell.

Recent Good Things:

  1. Kerr and his staff continue to impress. Every time he opens his mouth, it's pure gold. Draymond might be the "heartbeat" of the team on the floor, but Kerr is certainly that off the floor. He often comes off as the most competitive person on the team, which is saying a lot with Curry around...
  2. Stephen Curry's Defense. He's looked much improved on this end recently, it's really nice to see him put forth the effort there, and this will certainly help cement his status as one of the best players in the league (if not the best).
  3. Draymond Green not shooting as many 3's.
  4. Festus Ezeli is back!
  5. Leandro Barbosa scoring like a Boss.

Recent Bad Things:

  1. Bogut's foul trouble.
  2. Atlanta's Win streak is over, so we can't crash that party...

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